During the end-of-year holidays, it’s common knowledge that we tend to see an increase in respiratory viruses as more people travel and spend time with loved ones indoors. Leading up to Thanksgiving and the end of 2022, we observed an increase in RSV and influenza, in addition to COVID-19, which has made recent “tripledemic” headlines and provoked worry that this year will bring back masking and distancing of the pandemic years.
But what actually happened over the holidays? We took a look at Ovation’s lab testing data from our network of molecular labs across the country to assess trends in viral positive cases between Nov 1 and Jan 22nd. Overall, respiratory virus positive cases peaked around Thanksgiving and then declined steadily through the holidays and New Year, returning to pre-fall levels in mid January. COVID-19 maintained elevated positivity rates through Christmas and New Years holidays but fell steadily thereafter while flu and RSV started declining much earlier and never peaked during the holidays.
Chart 1: RSV trends from Aug 7th to Jan 15th
RSV variant A, a disease that was sending many children under the age of 5 to the hospital in the fall, peaked around October 23rd and fell steadily through Thanksgiving and over the December holidays. This is consistent with trends we see in CDC data. Currently, RSV A looks to be leveling off to summer levels in the recent week. RSV B never spiked over the holidays and remains at a low endemic levels hovering between 0.2% and 2%.
Chart 2: COVID-19 Positive Case Count Oct 2 to Jan 15th
COVID-19 (all variants) peaked around Dec 4-11th to about 700 positives per week, particularly in individuals 65+ but also to a lesser degree (400-450 per week) in those 24-64 years old. Infections remained low in people ages 0-24 years old. We saw positive levels remain fairly high from Dec 24-Jan 1 and then drop off steadily confirming some infection increase over the holidays, but not as high as experts had expected.
Chart 3: Influenza trends from Oct 2 to Jan 15th
Influenza A was increasing in circulation around October 16th, and peaking around Thanksgiving holiday. However, we saw a steady decline from peak positivity rate across variants of about 17% on Nov 20th to almost pre-flu-season levels on Jan 1st. Influenza A subtype H3 was clearly dominant this season with a peak positivity of 12.2% while subtype H1 peaked a little later (Dec 4th) at 5.7%. Influenza B and C remained at very low levels across the full time period assessed. Overall, we did not see an increase in circulation of any flu variant over the December holidays and New Year as many expected. Fears about overwhelming hospitals with respiratory patients thankfully appear to have been overblow this season.
Broad National Coverage of Viral Testing Data
Ovation’s network of distributed labs captures a unique population distinct from CDC reports and has high diversity in non-euro populations both geographically and racially. 82% of zip codes in the US are represented in Ovation data.
You can find our RSV, Flu and COVID-19 datasets on Amazon Data Exchange including several free exploratory datasets.